Malheur County plans to ink deal with major logistics firm to operate rail center

County officials told the state this week it will work to craft an agreement with a major logistics firm to operate a proposed rail reload center north of Nyssa. (The Enterprise/File).

UPDATE: This story has been updated to include a link to the document submitted by Malheur County officials to the state.

VALE – Malheur County notified state transportation officials this week it is in discussions with a major logistics firm to operate a proposed rail reload center north of Nyssa.

The Malheur County Development Corp. – a public company created by the county to oversee the $26-million facility – outlined its plan for the center in documents delivered to the state Tuesday.

The development corporation hopes to craft a deal with AmeriCold Logistics, LLC to run the facility and to find the specialized rail cars needed to haul commodities such as onions. In a letter to the development corporation, AmeriCold Logistics LLC said it is willing to ink a deal to operate the facility. However, the development corporation said until the state provides funding the “conversation is on hold.”

DOCUMENT: Malheur County’s submission to the state

The development corporation also said it may also explore leasing the specialized rail cars needed at the reload center.

One major obstacle surrounding rail cars is turnaround time. Once a car is loaded with onions and shipped east, it must find a way back to Malheur County. The county told the state it plans to coordinate with AmeriCold Logistics LLC to overcome that challenge.

County officials had until this week to explain to the state which company would run the rail center and who would supply the specialized rail cars needed to haul onions and other produce.

AmeriCold Logistics LLC is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and touts it is “the world’s largest owner and operator of temperature-controlled warehouses.”

“Of our 137 warehouses, over 75% of these have rail cars,” AmeriCold said in its letter to the county.

The rail reload facility is viewed by many as a major economic game changer for Malheur County. At the facility, farm products will be trucked in and loaded on to trains for shipment across the country.

Initially the facility will employ seven full time and about 13 to 19 seasonal staff. Once the facility is “built out” the number of jobs will be closer to 125 to 150, said Greg Smith, Malheur County economic development director.

In the feasibility study delivered by Smith to transportation officials in September, products – such as onions – will be loaded onto refrigerated rail cars. The facility, the report said, will be especially beneficial for onion producers, saving up to $1.8 million in shipping costs.